Just paying lips service to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus isn’t enough. We must also hit the note of what that means for us now. And what that means for the everyone we are commanded to go out to teach and baptize.
It’s easy to fall into the trap that makes the Christian life a matter of do’s and don’t’s. “God has said don’t murder. So just don’t!” It’s the kind of trap that’s enveloped in the common jingle, “I don’t drink, smoke, or dance, and don’t hang out with those that do”—as if that sums up the duty of a Christian.
We are commanded to teach the world what it means to love and obey everything Jesus teaches. But how we do this matter. Christianity isn’t a checklist for us or anyone else to achieve. It is about standing at the crossroads proclaiming, “The King has come. He’s died and risen and reigns. He doesn’t cast anyone out. Pursue greater pleasures in him!”
It’s the kind of concern you’d have if you found out your bestfriend was having her meal at the dumpster each night. “Why are you eating that half-rotted and molded cheeseburger?” you might ask. “Well it’s food,” she replies. “And my appetite must be fulfilled.”
Well we might acknowledge the foundational goodness of those appetites without acknowledging the health of eating out of the trash. In fact, if you loved your friend at all, you would extend hospitality to them, invite them into your home, buy some premium ground beef and grill them a proper cheeseburger with bacon. That’s the kind of Christianity that says, “Pursue greater pleasures.”
The flip side would be walking up to your friend who you see eating a trash cheeseburger and slapping it out of their hands and screaming, “Don’t eat that crap!” You see the difference in the tone.
The difference is a Christianity just concerned with passing along a rational knowledge of the truth versus one that aims for the gut (the passions)—which wins the head too. It’s along the lines of the trite, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” People’s affection are often grabbed before their mind even knows that change is happening. James K. A. Smith sums this up well: “Being a disciple of Jesus is not primarily a matter of getting the right ideas and doctrines and beliefs into your head in order to guarantee proper behavior; rather, it’s a matter of being the kind of person who loves rightly—who loves God” (Desiring the Kingdom 32).
So don’t pay lip services to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Point the arrows of the gospel at the heart of those who you are discipling and let them fly. Remind them daily to pursue greater pleasures than the knock off’s they are pursuing right now.
Mathew B. Sims is the author of A Household Gospel: Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and writes for CBMW Manual, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Borrowed Light, and other publications. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship and offers freelance editing and book formatting services. He blogs at Grace for Sinners and Marginalia: On the Margins of the Writing Life. His family is covenanted at Downtown Presbyterian Church.